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Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Best And Worst Foods For Garden Wildlife - 30 Days Wild - Wild Wednesday

   Last year in my front garden we had foxes build a den beneath a thick shrub and watched the mother and cubs play in the street. We live in a cul-de-sac, so it was quite safe for them. We recently had more foxes check out the locale this year, too.
   In the back garden we've had hedgehogs nest multiple times, we have multiple daily visits from squirrels, we've had a few badgers, and little mice nesting nearby. But no damage at any of their paws. In fact the biggest problem is a destructive crow who likes to pick up the fat feeder and drop it on the floor with an almightly clatter.
   But that aside, all the nice things are due to the gradual build-up of thick foliage and generally leaving seeds and fat cakes out for birds. We never made an effort to lure any of it into our little garden, but we're certainly the only ones the creatures visit. Most gardens along the street are empty at the back, and paved over at the front. Ours is one of the few truly flourishing.

   But encouraging more wildlife than pigeons into your garden isn't difficult to do, it just takes a little bit of effort, patience and, I admit, luck that the animals happen to find it. If there are none nearby during your efforts then there are simply none nearby.


Hedgehogs
   Eating slugs and snails make them wonderful friends to your plants, so encourage hedgehogs into your garden by leaving out meat-based dog or cat food, dried meal worms, sunflower hearts, or chopped boiled eggs, and leave a shallow dish of water.

   Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant so never feed them milk, and they can't digest bread. They may eat it readily enough and appear to enjoy it, but consider the fact that a dog will steal chocolate at the first opportunity, even though it's poisonous to them. Also, humans smoke!


Squirrels
   Squirrels are wonderful creatures. There is a family of grey squirrels who live in the trees behind my house and visit the garden multiple times a day. Some people get a bit funny about the fact that we like the grey squirrels in our garden because they're an invasive species, but to my mind, they're here, they're happy, and this single family isn't causing any harm. And they make us all, including my mum, quite happy when we see them, and making my mum happy is hugely important.

   Encourage squirrels into your garden by leaving out a variety of seeds and nuts - they'll also encourage more birds into your garden - and apple and carrot are also good things, though they may turn their noses up at them first.

   Don't only feed them peanuts, however, as this can lead to a calcium deficiency. In contrast, however, dandelion greens, spinach and carrots are high in calcium.
Squirrels also don't typically eat meat, so don't leave out cat or dog food and expect to see squirrels.


Foxes
   Foxes are omnivores and will eat anything, so there are no special requirements nor anything particularly dangerous - just avoid whatever you wouldn't feed your dog. They do have a sweet tooth, however, so leaving out fruit can be a great encouragement.


Mice & Voles
   Voles and mice will snack on the seeds dropped by birds, so having a variety of seeds will lure mice and voles. Perhaps hang a bird feeder above a hidey hole where mice can easily scurry to and from in search of food, and this will encourage them to remain.

   Now, obviously you can't sign post foods with 'for hedgehogs only', so be aware that you could lure more unexpected animals into your garden with certain foods, but you could also lose it to local cats.
But this also means that it takes less effort to encourage lots of different creatures, as many have similar diets.

Be Responsible

Local cats.
Think responsibly. Do you want to lure vulnerable wildlife into an area where there are lots of local cats? The cats may well end up eating some of the food, but above all else, they may well try to attack squirrels and hedgehogs. It's a wonderful thing to want to bring nature into your life in this way, but it's a terrible thing to watch it get crushed.

Cover your ponds.
Hedgehogs are very clumsy little creatures. They're noisy and they potter about without a care in the world. Unfortunately, though they can swim, they will often fall into ponds and drown.
Either cover your pond with wide mesh - it doesn't have to be fine chicken wire - as this will stop them from falling in, or build a mesh table with a ramp that will sit just beneath the surface of the water and allow them access to the water without the possibility of falling into more than an inch of water. Fish in the pond can still be easily fed.

Leave the animals places to hide.
   You may not think of your back garden as somewhere predators lurk, but even in my small back garden there have been a number of sparrowhawks swooping in and making successful kills. Then there are the predators with friendlier faces like your neighbour's moggy.
   Logs, dense hedges and foliage will offer the animals safety from predators and even somewhere to sleep, and that sense of safety will equally encourage them back.

Birds flying into Conservatories
   I can't count the number of times birds have flown into my conservatory and been unable to get out. In the space of 4 days, 3 birds wandered in - 2 pigeons and a great tit, and the latter was only 5 days ago. It flew around, bumped into every window and eventually dazed itself, landing upside down on its back, feet curled up, on the window sill. I didn't chase it to try to catch it because it only panics it and makes it worse, so I opened all the windows as wide as they would go. Typically, it flew into the only one I couldn't open. I took it outside and kept it in the shade. It couldn't sit up on its own, it kept toppling forwards onto its beak and then onto its back, so I held it until it was able, its little heart hammering, and I kept it in the shade and lowered its limp legs into water to help cool it down. When it was able to sit up on its own, after about 10 minutes, I set it down on a part of the patio that never gets any sun and gave it some space. My lunch had gone cold by that point, but no matter. I sat outside about 10 feet away and ate it, keeping an eye on the bird, and eventually, after growing a little more alert, it finally flew off.
   It was a privilege to be able to hold it, but it wasn't a fun experience. This isn't the first time it's happened.
   So, if you have a conservatory and like to leave the door open to let in the most fresh air, consider lowering blinds over the open doorway. Don't close them as you won't get much air in, defeating the point, but the lowered, open blinds will either catch anything that tries to fly in, or outright deter them because they'll see it.


   In the end the best way to encourage wildlife is to mimic nature: provide what it provides and let part of your garden go wild.






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